Tigers Need to Keep Chopping, Linebacker Says

Senior middle linebacker Travis Williams talks about the defensive effort through eight games and the young players that are coming along for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.-–Linebacker Travis Williams isn't happy. Despite Auburn's league-leading pass defense and number two total defense, the senior says that the Tigers must continue to get better because the Tigers have no margin for error as they continue their push to repeat as SEC champions.

"It was a lot of great effort," Williams says of the game against Ole Miss. "We're starting to eliminate our mistakes a little bit. We're still making mistakes, but if you could watch this game there is a big difference between this game and the last game. The effort is there, but we have to continue to chop at that wood and get better. Everybody has to do their job and limit their mistakes."

One of the reasons for mistakes at times this season has been the numbers of different players who have seen playing time for the defense. In all 17 different Tigers have started a game on defense, a situation that Williams says makes for a better unit in the long run because of the competition.

"It helps because it keeps everybody on their toes," Williams says. "It shows that in the future Auburn is still going to be all right because we've got a lot of young guys who are competing. It shows that we have talent always coming."

Travis Williams is the leader of the defense for the Tigers.

Of those 17 players only Tommy Jackson, Wayne Dickens, Travis Williams, Antarrious Williams and David Irons are seniors and Irons has a good chance to receive a sixth year of eligibility next season because of a previous knee injury that caused him to sit out the 2004 season.

The youth movement is definitely alive and well for Auburn on defense and nowhere is that more evident at linebacker where Merrill Johnson, Chris Evans and Courtney Harden have all received extensive playing time. That happened again on Saturday against Ole Miss.

"I think they went out there and played pretty well," Williams says. "They're still making mistakes. Even the older guys make mistakes, but what I saw with them is that they were happy to be out there. They were flying to the ball and trying to contribute to the team."

An aggressive player by nature, Williams says he's had to learn how to be more patient playing for first-year defensive coordinator David Gibbs. One of the problems Auburn had early was over-pursuit against the run, something that has been much better in recent games. Williams says that while this defense might not get as much pressure on the quarterback or stops behind the line of scrimmage, the results are all that matter.

"If it's not broke don't fix it," Williams says. "A lot of people say we need to blitz here or blitz there, but our defense is doing fine the way it is. We might need to blitz on some downs and some downs we might not, but Coach Gibbs makes the call. We just go out and try to execute it to the best of our abilities."

One area that has seen constant improvement since the first game is on the defensive line. Struggling to get a consistent pass rush and also keep offensive linemen occupied against the run, the front four has played well in recent weeks and Williams says in particular that Tommy Jackson is doing very well in the middle.

"Every week they get better and better," Williams says. "I think right now the guy that is playing top-notch ball is T.J. He's playing some big-time ball. The stuff that he does week in and week out just fighting through double teams, I haven't seen a center that has blocked him all year. He's playing some big-time ball.

"Wayne Dickens has stepped it up as well, another senior," he adds. "Marquies Gunn, our strong end, is really helping us out. They're really stepping up the plate and stepping up to the challenge."

This Saturday the Tigers travel to Kentucky to face the Wildcats in a game that should be an easy one for Auburn to get a victory. While it should be a victory for Williams and company, he says that they treat every game the same and the defense will work to get better before the noon CST kickoff in Commonwealth Stadium.

"We just have to continue to pay attention to detail," Williams says. "Going to Kentucky, it's another away game. We have to be up for the challenge. They're coming off a win and we're coming off a win. They're feeling good and we're feeling good. We just have to go up and try to take care of business."

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